Confronting the Demobilizing Wall of Uncertainty:  Revisiting “Black Bloc/White Riot” in the Age of Trump

With AK Thompson

April 18, Saturday, 10am-2pm EST. Online via Zoom. 


AK Thompson’s classic Black Bloc, White Riot (2010) offered a provocative account of the anti-globalization protests that emerged in 1999 and outlined the effect of the movement on the white, middle-class kids who were swept up in it over the following decade. The book has been called “a manifesto” by George Katsiaficas (author of Subversion of Politics) and “important stuff” by Bernardine Dohrn of Weather Underground fame. Ten years after its first publication, the lessons of the political moment Thompson explored in Black Bloc, White Riot are newly relevant in the struggle against Trump-era politics and global fascist resurgence today.

For today’s white middle class activists, confronting “a demobilizing wall of uncertainty,” Thompson writes that “the only remaining path is to assume responsibility for everything.” But what does everything entail? “Only by passing through violence and entering the field of politics do we come to see the world in its totality; only then do we begin to perceive the full scope of the potential for transformation” (Thompson, 1999, p.154).

Inspired by a forthcoming special issue of Theory in Action — “Revisiting The Riot,” this online seminar with AK Thompson will provide an opportunity to revisit the arguments about representation, whiteness, violence, and the political presented in Black Bloc, White Riot and to reflect on their significance for radical left forces navigating the current terrain.

IMG_3934FacilitatorAK Thompson got kicked out of high school for publishing an underground newspaper called The Agitator and has been an activist and social theorist ever since. Currently a Professor of Social Movements and Social Change at Ithaca College, his publications include Sociology for Changing the World: Social Movements/Social Research (2006), Black Bloc, White Riot: Anti-Globalization and the Genealogy of Dissent (2010), Keywords for Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle (2016), Spontaneous Combustion: The Eros Effect and Global Revolution (2017), and, most recently, Premonitions: Selected Essays on the Culture of Revolt (2018). Between 2005 and 2012, he served on the Editorial Committee of Upping the Anti: A Journal of Theory and Action.

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Rigorous & Rebellious Learning

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